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Snaking out Sturgeons by Jonathan F. Kelley


We have roared until our ribs fairly ached, at the relation of the following “item” on sturgeons, by a loquacious friend of ours:—

It appears our friend was located on the Kennebec river, a few years ago, and had a number of hands employed about a dam, and the sturgeons were very numerous and extremely docile. They would frequently come poking their noses close up to the men standing in the water, and one of the men bethought him how delicious a morsel of pickled sturgeon was, and he forthwith made a preparation to “snake out” a clever-sized fish. Getting an iron rod at the blacksmith's shop, close at hand, he bends up one end like a fish hook, and, slipping out into the stream, he slily places the hook under the sturgeon's nose and into its round hole of a mouth, expecting to fasten on to the victimized, harmless fish, and “yank” him clean and clear out of his watery element. But, “lordy,” wasn't he mistaken and surprised! The moment the hook touched the inside of the sturgeon's mouth, the creature backed water so sudden and forcibly as to near jerk the holder of the hook's head from its socket. The poor fellow was forty rods under water, and going down stream, before he mustered presence of mind enough to induce him to let go the hook!

However, the lookers-on of this curious man[oe]uvre took a boat and fished out their half-drowned comrade, who concluded that he had paid pretty dearly for his whistle.

The sturgeon-catching did not end here. After the laugh of the above-mentioned adventure had ceased, some one offered to bet a hat that he could hold a sturgeon and snake him clean out of the water; and as the man who had tried the experiment felt altogether dubious about it, he at once bet that the sturgeon would be more than a match for any man in the crowd.

The wager was duly staked, a rod crooked, the operator tucked up his sleeves and trowsers, and wades out to where a sturgeon or two were lying off in the shallow water. Of course the operation now became a matter of considerable interest; and as the man was a stout, hearty fellow, able to hold a bull by the horns, few entertained doubts of his bringing out his sturgeon.

After a long time the operator gets his hook under the sturgeon, and leans forward to stick it close into the jaws of the victim; and no sooner was that part of the feat accomplished, than Mr. Sturgeon “backs out” with the velocity of chain lightning, carrying his assailant under water and down stream! The man held on; and there they went, foaming and pitching, until the fellow, finding his breath nearly out of his body; his neck, arms, and legs just about dislocated, concluded to lose the hat and let the hook and sturgeon go!

Pretty well used up, the poor fellow succeeded in getting out of the river, a convert to the first experimental idea of the strength and velocity of fish, especially a big sturgeon.

Beginning to imagine that fish could swim, or had some muscular power, several of the bystanders were rife for experimenting on the sturgeons.

Another iron rod was converted into a hook, and two burly-built Paddys volunteered to hook the fish. An opportunity was not long waited for, ere a jolly good elastic nosed genus sturgeon came smelling up close to where the Paddys had posted themselves upon some moss-covered, slippery stones, and with a sudden spasmodic effort, the man with the hook planted it firmly into the suction hole of the fish, while his companion held on to a rope fast to the hook. Before Pat could say Jack Robinson, of course he was jerked off his feet, and, letting go the iron, the other Paddy and the sturgeon set sail, having all the fun to themselves! This proved, or very nearly so, a serious denouement to the sturgeon-catching by hand, for Paddy was carried clean and clear off soundings, and so repeatedly immersed in deep water, that his life was within an ace of being wet out of his body. The rope parted at last (poor Pat never thought of letting go his “hould"), and being dipped out of the liquid element and rolled over a barrel until his insides were emptied of the water, and heat restored through the influence of whiskey, he recovered, and further experimenting on sturgeons, that season, in the Kennebec, ceased.


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